I've Got It
Tracing my “roots” back to 1907, my mother’s parents came to Ellis Island, New York, from Italy, eventually settling in the little coal-mining town of Centerville, Iowa. My mother was raised in a denomination where she was not introduced to the Christian faith and salvation from sin. My father’s family was originally from England, and he had no real understanding of salvation either. My parents were simple farm folk when the Lord enlightened them and showed them a better way of life.
My father had been unable to lay aside some habits that he knew were wrong. He used to say that one of his hands was yellow from smoking tobacco. He would throw his cigarettes away with the resolve to quit, and then end up on his hands and knees looking in the bushes for what he had tossed out. He was bound by the tobacco habit.
In the early 1930s, a man came to Centerville who had visited the West Coast, and he had, among his belongings, some Apostolic Faith Church literature. My father was working on a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project—a government program that put the unemployed to work constructing roads, bridges, parks, and public buildings. One day he was telling his woes to a fellow worker, and that man said he knew someone who had tracts that told how to be delivered from sinful habits. He gave my father a tract entitled, “Can a Christian Use Tobacco?” It said God could deliver the individual who prayed.
My father had only a seventh grade education, but he had a lot of common sense. When he read that a man could be set free if he would just get honest with God, he gave his heart to the Lord, and God did deliver him.
My father had only a seventh grade education, but he had a lot of common sense. When he read that a man could be set free if he would just get honest with God, he gave his heart to the Lord, and God did deliver him. My mother watched his life, and after a time she also gave her life to God, so I was born into a Christian home. My folks corresponded with the Apostolic Faith ministry in Portland, Oregon, and in 1943, our family moved to Medford, Oregon, to be part of this fellowship. What a wonderful beginning it was for me!
We were a poor family, and when we first moved, we lived out in an orchard for three months during the harvest time. I remember the first night we went into the church in Medford. My older brother and I were just barefooted boys. We knelt at the altar of prayer, and I saw the most beautiful sight in the world: dozens of people who were rejoicing in their connection with God. I had never seen a prayer service like that, but it did not trouble me. Rather, the smiles on their faces made an impression on me. Something said to my six-year-old heart, “These people are truly happy.”
From then on, I had the privilege of sitting under the sound of the Gospel and seeing the changes God made in hearts and lives. One man named Willard was known in the town because of his problems with alcohol. He came to the altar and prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” and the Lord saved that man in a moment and changed his life. As I observed such events, the Spirit of God spoke to my heart.
My mother and father prayed for their children. There were four of us boys, and Mother would stay on her knees until all of us were home and in bed asleep. Because of my parents’ prayers, I knew what it meant to be under conviction. Sometimes I wished for a few days off from that guilt, but they kept praying.
The year I was a junior in high school, a young man from the church bought a 1952 Chevy two-door coupe. He called me and said, “Would you like to go for a ride?” Looking back now, I realize he was befriending me. The Lord was using him to help draw me into the Gospel. Before long I told two of my friends from the church, “I am under Holy Ghost conviction, and I have a feeling I am going to be getting saved.” They said, “That’s all right with us!” I was glad they understood.
In just a few moments of honesty, I opened my heart to the Lord, and He made a wonderful change in my life.
On January 6, 1953, I went forward to the altar of prayer and knelt across from my Sunday school teacher. In just a few moments of honesty, I opened my heart to the Lord, and He made a wonderful change in my life. He put a peace in my heart that only He can give, one that passes all understanding. I looked my teacher in the eye and said, “I’ve got it.” God gave me something in my heart that I knew was real.
That night I did not wait for my father to take me home. Instead I ran to our house and told my mother, who had not been able to attend the service, that God had saved me. Before that day, the enemy of my soul had said to me, “If you get salvation, you will never keep it,” so I went upstairs and put an X on the calendar in my room. The next day when I came home from school, I knelt down beside my bed and thanked God for a whole day of victory. Then I put another X on the calendar. For two solid weeks I marked that calendar. Then I looked at those marks and used some logic, saying to myself, “If God can keep me for two weeks, He can keep me the rest of my life.” That was true, and it has proved out.
God helped me to continue seeking after Him. Having lived in a home where the doctrines of the Bible were upheld, and having attended Sunday school for several years, I was no stranger to the doctrine of entire sanctification. The Sunday after I was saved, my heart was wanting more of God. That evening the invitation song at the end of the sermon asked, “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control?” As I knelt to pray, my heart was open to God and I consecrated all of myself the best I knew how. The Spirit of God witnessed to my heart that God had indeed heard my prayer, and I knew that I was sanctified. Others around me were also blessed that night as we prayed.
A few weeks later, my heart was hungry for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. At the end of every service, I prayed when the invitation was given. One evening the Lord helped my faith by the testimony of a lady who said that after being saved and sanctified, God baptized her with the Holy Ghost two months and two days after she was saved. As I heard that, faith sprang up in my heart. I thought, Could it be that God would baptize me with the Holy Ghost two months and two days after I was saved?
The heavens opened upon my young heart and the Spirit of God flooded my room. It was my first time to have such an encounter with the Holy Spirit.
Not long after that evening, I went home after church to an empty room adjacent to my bedroom and opened the Bible to the second chapter of Acts. As I read that chapter and the next, my heart was so hungry for more of God and I prayed, ''What can I do?'' It seemed there was no reply, so I went to my bedroom and laid down. Then the heavens opened upon my young heart and the Spirit of God flooded my room. It was my first time to have such an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I began to laugh and so put a pillow over my face to stifle the sound. The next morning I told my father what had happened, and he said to just keep my heart open to God and He would be faithful. As you might guess, two months and two days after I was saved, God came down and filled my soul with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and I spoke as the Spirit bore witness in a language unknown to me.
As I continued in the Gospel, I married a young woman who also had chosen to serve God. She was one of nine children, and she testifies that there was a “security blanket” over their home—early in the morning, she would hear her father down in the living room praying for his children. One Sunday afternoon when she was thirteen years old, she and a friend came to church on roller skates. She prayed that day, giving her life to the Lord, and He saved her. Although she did not have deep sins in her life because she had been sheltered from those things, the Lord really made a change in her heart.
My wife and I settled down and had a family of two boys. We were both Sunday School teachers and active in many other areas of the church. Early in my Christian walk, I had tried to take up the trombone and be in the church music, but then, in time, I laid it aside.
One day our older son became very ill with convulsions. As my wife and I prayed, I told the Lord, “If You heal our boy, I will do anything.” The Lord was listening. Our son got better, but God did not forget my prayer. Later as I was doing night custodial work in a banking institution, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart, “Nolan, where art thou?” I simply looked up and said, ''Lord, I will play the trombone.'' The days that followed were busy as I took my trombone out of the closet and began taking lessons, and then began playing in the church orchestra, which I did for eleven years.
We just tried to follow the Lord, being faithful in the little things, and keeping our consecrations intact, and God began to give us opportunity to put some of those commitments into action.
After marrying, I had many thoughts about our usefulness in the service of God, but I never shared my deepest contemplations with anyone, not even my wife. After I began to play the trombone, I tried to continue keeping myself yielded to the Lord, and God began to open doors. In time our pastor called me aside and asked about my consecrations. I told him I wanted to do all that God had called me to do. The subject of preaching came up, and I said that I felt God had been speaking to me about that for awhile, but I did not want to tell anyone in case I had it wrong. That night, five years after we were married, I shared with my wife. She, like Mary of old, “pondered these things in her heart” as we continued to serve God together. So my “call to preach” had no lightning bolt or exceptional manifestation. We just tried to follow the Lord, being faithful in the little things, and keeping our consecrations intact, and God began to give us opportunity to put some of those commitments into action.
God was always there to help in any situation. Once while working in an office building in the dark of the night, I inadvertently stepped into an elevator shaft. As I looked up after landing at the bottom, I sent up a prayer to God. To this day I do not know how I got out, and miraculously without a scratch. Although the shaft was only at the first floor level, I should never have escaped without injury.
The Lord has healed as well. On one occasion as a boy, I was so very sick and writhing in pain. I called my father to my bedroom to pray, and when he did, I was healed instantly. Another time, while traveling with our family, I was sitting in the front seat of the car next to my mother. She became deathly sick. I was not saved yet at the time, but I put my head between my knees and prayed a silent prayer, and God instantly healed her. As an older man, I have twice been diagnosed with life-threatening issues, but after prayer and exhaustive tests, the doctors sent me home with a clean bill of health.
Over the years, God has given my wife and me many privileges. In 1976, we were asked to move to Dallas, Oregon, to pastor the church there. Subsequently, we had the privilege to pastor in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington, and Roseburg and Grants Pass, Oregon.
Joan and I have been married over sixty years and have children and grandchildren. God has been more than faithful. I was a teenager, then a middle-aged person. Now I’m at that age when people say, “How are you feeling?” But the Gospel is still thrilling to me, and my heart nearly bursts with praise and glory to God. There has been one blessing after another, and there is the hope of a great eternity with the Lord.